Young Greens Matariki Roche (Ngāti Raukawa) and Danielle Marks (Te Arawa) (Photo: Eddy Fifield)

Youth Wings: The Young Greens holding space at the table

Summer reissue: Right from day one, the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand has been a party led by co-leaders. That philosophy extends to the party’s youth wing, where co-convenors Danielle Marks (Te Arawa) and Matariki Roche (Ngāti Raukawa) represent the party’s next generation.

First published August 19, 2020.

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Matariki Roche has a tattoo of a pizza oven on her left arm. It’s the pizza oven at the Waiheke “hippie co-operative” where she grew up immersed in politics and activism – her mum is former Green Party MP Denise Roche.

“We’d have these big collective meals every couple of weeks or so,” Matariki remembers. “I would usually fall asleep on the couch to the sound of everyone having intense political discussions.”

Growing up as “the political, environmentally-conscious kid” wasn’t the most conventional upbringing. “I learned the numbers of the recyclable plastics before I learned the lyrics to any pop songs,” Matariki explains. Her partner Danielle Marks groans at this on-brand revelation. “Oh, mate.”

Danielle comes from a somewhat different political background. “My family’s not that political in the traditional sense,” they say. “Dad’s very much into Māori politics, and being on hapū and iwi boards … [he] knows his way around an argument, I’d say.”

As co-convenors in the Young Greens, the pair draw on their different political upbringings to keep the party honest to its environmental and social justice kaupapa. As Danielle puts it, “Our main focus is to make sure that we’re at the table and not [just] being served at the table.”

Neither co-convenor sees standing for parliament in their future, however. “If I was to do it, it’d be only to show that every single person in this country is capable of being in parliament,” says Danielle. “There are other places where you have more freedom to be vocally radical,” says Matariki. “ I don’t think I could keep quiet all that well.”

Danielle offers another perspective: “Maybe that’s an even better reason for you to be in there.”

Youth Wings is made with the support of NZ On Air. Watch the other episodes of Youth Wings here.

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